2014 Year In Review and January 1 Debt Check

I’ve been away from my blog for way too long.  I feel like I’ve entered a confessional and should be asking for penance.  Since I’m not Catholic, I’m not exactly sure how that works, so my Catholic friends can advise me.

You want to know how my 2014 ended, don’t you. I had a seriously ambitious goal of repaying $28,000 from my debt in 2014.  Since I had also borrowed $10,000 from my mom, I also had mom to contend with.  Not only did I hit my goal, I beat it by a couple hundred bucks and mom was paid in full.  You want to know how I did it.  As always, I’m an open book, so why not share?

jan2014 to dec2014 - Debt Check

January 1, 2014 to January 1, 2015

december 2014 - Debt Check

In 2014 I reduced my debt by a total of $28,699.39 plus I paid mom back with interest.  Let’s do a happy dance together shall we? I surpassed my goal by a decent amount on money.  I wasn’t sure if I would make it, but I did I’m firmly in the $90’s again for the first time since June 2012.

First, I’d like to thank the Academy for my side hustle. I will never stop preaching the gospel of developing a second income stream that does not depend on your job because, God help us, you never know when your job might go bye-bye through no fault of your own.  As I’ve mentioned before, I design graphics and farm out making items based on my graphics to my brother, the guy with the actual business making products.  That’s one side hustle.  This blog is another one, although I have purposely declined all ads for the past year so that I can focus on my writing and not be swayed by the wonderful ad money that people attempt to throw at me.  I also have rental properties.  Sidebar: someone e-mailed me to ask if I can talk about how that’s going and I’ve completely lost your e-mail.  I promise, it’s coming.  Oh and on top of those things I also have this job thing that I go to every day.

hustle harder

My side hustle exploded during the Christmas season.  Sleep was not my friend and I got precious little.  In fact, my side hustle income ran laps around the income from my job and was more than double my take home pay in December. You read that correctly.  And you know what, it could have made a third lap but I put my inventory down to zero so that I could process all of my orders.  It was the curse of abundance.  Someone from a television show linked to one of my items and I was selling out faster that we could make them.  My brother actually had to hire one additional temporary person just to keep up with my orders.  I eventually just put inventory down to zero to stem the tide.  What a horrifically wonderful problem to have.

I would get to my brother’s office early in the morning before work then head off to my day job and work my normal ten hour day and then go back to my brother’s office to put in another two to three hours of work before going home to answer inquiries online, process orders and then faint into bed.  Weekends? They still don’t exist. I’ve had to put my online store in maintenance mode for the last two weeks just to gain some sanity.

Without the income from my side hustle, it would have been pretty difficult to make my goal.  Actually, it wouldn’t have been hard, except that I hadn’t really planned on getting married, but I have this whole wedding thing coming up in early May and that takes money.  But, you know me, so while the wedding will cost money, I’m still determined to prove that you can have a decent wedding in New York City without spending the nearly $40,000, yeah you read that correctly, $40,000 that the psychos in my city spend on a wedding on average.  People are out of their minds.  Not only do I not have $40,000, but if I did, I wouldn’t be spending it on a party.  Instead we’re sticking to a $5,000 wedding budget and unless I can get some credit cards points or something, we’ll be paying for that in cash.

Listen, if you don’t get a wedding invitation from me, sorry, but I’m not sorry.  It’s a tiny wedding but we’ll talk about that later as wedding season approaches.  I’m sticking to my financial guns on this one.  Sure, people will be offended that they’re not invited, but I have other things to worry about. Dang it, I’ve been side tracked again.  Where was I? Side hustle.

Yes, so the side hustle is critical or I should say was critical to reaching my 2014 debt repayment goal.  People keep mistaking a side hustle for second job.  This need not be the case.  I made sales whether I was awake or sleeping.  I remember waking up on Black Friday to 30 orders while I slept.  The key here is not to confuse what the purpose of your side hustle funds are for.  I deliberately had all of my side hustle money going into a separate account and as it grew I would use it to pay my debt down.

Speaking of debt, I’ve been all over the internet these days talk about my debt repayment strategy, my S.M.A.R.T. plan if you will.  In the past two months I’ve been on 4 or 5 podcasts; I’ve been featured in the Wall Street Journal;  I’ve been featured in Life Hacker; I’ve had articles pushed on a number of different websites; and I was named the 3rd most inspirational debt repayment story by Yahoo! Finance.  I’m happy that my story of paying off over $50K in less than two years has resonated with people but beyond my story is your story.

If you’re here and are struggling with debt I hope that you make 2015 your year of change.  My year was 2014 and I can honestly say that I have never had a more successful year in my life.  This was the first time that I felt as if the universe had aligned and everything was exactly as it was meant to be.  It was the most comfortable I have felt in my skin ever.

Rocky climbing stairsHave you ever watched the movie Rocky? At this point there have been like 50 Rocky movies but in one of those movies, a not so steroidal looking Sylvestor Stallone runs up the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the theme song, pumping his fists in triumph because even though he was the underdog, he believed that he could win. That has to be you.  If you begin this process wishy-woshy and not really believing that you can accomplish an ambitious goal, then you’re setting yourself up for serious failure.  Set an aspirational goal and then move everything in your power towards its completion.

I’ve honestly had some pretty crappy years.  I realize that many times I was a victim of circumstance like the teenager crashing into me and totaling my car because she had an important text to answer while driving, but there were some years where there was a self-fulfilling prophecy at work.  I didn’t bob and weave as life threw jabs at me.  Instead I stood there like a moron getting punched in the face over and over again while feeling sorry for myself. What a loser mentality.

I used to have a middle school teacher. who I have never forgotten.  I can not, for the life of me, remember her name, but boy can I see her in my mind’s eye.  She was a wiry woman with spiky hair so blonde that it bordered on white and she was always impeccably dressed.  Her make-up was always applied and not one hair was ever out of place. I promise you, she had to be responsible for at least a small bit of the hole in the ozone just based on how much hair spray she had to have applied each morning to make sure that a hair never dared move one centimeter.

She kept a big glass jar of yellow lemons on her desk to which she would always point when one of her students had an excuse for something.  “When life deals you lemons, you make lemonade”, she would say.  I can still see her red lacquered nails right now as she tapped on the glass jar.  I contemplated knocking that jar of lemons off her desk at least a few times every week.

We were poor kids from crappy neighborhoods and we didn’t always have access to the supplies that we needed.  Some of us had to help with younger siblings or we had parents who worked long hours who didn’t have time to look over our homework or sign whatever paper was sent home.  Some of us were too proud to admit that our families we were too poor to afford the supplies that we had to bring to class.

She didn’t care.  She wanted us to find a way to get whatever we were supposed to have completed done on time with no complaints or excuses.  swimming - Debt CheckI had a strong dislike for that woman then, but she taught me a lesson – being in a situation that isn’t ideal doesn’t give you an excuse to accept mediocrity.  To put it another way, stop making excuses and find a way to git ‘er done.  Stop making excuses for your debt, your financial situation, your WHATEVER and make this your year to turn it around.  This is not about a New Year’s resolution; it’s about the desire to make a change and having the determination and the drive to do so.  God help me, I’m sounding like Oprah.  Time to move on.

This week marked the sixth anniversary of this blog.  Six long years of me putting my thoughts on the internet.  When I started this years ago I never thought that I would have lasted this long.  I also couldn’t have pictured just how much my life would change in that time.  I was truly desperate when I started this blog.

I wish that I could have a conversation with my younger self and tell her to just keep moving along.  One foot in front of the other no matter how hard it gets and your life will change drastically very quickly.  When you’re in the moment it’s hard to think that you’ll be able to take even the next step let alone being able to see out towards the horizon, but look at be these few years later.

My salary has increased by 50%, I own property, a decent retirement account, a side hustle that is helping me pay down my debt, an awesome family and a doggie in a fabulous Christmas sweater.  Don’t judge.  Her underbelly has no hair, so she gets cold.

This next year will be serious changes and I’m sure, challenges for me, but I’m ready.  My debt will probably take a massive hit as we gear up to do a massive home renovation later this year and make other life changes.  Whatever happens, I’m ready to face it head on.  I’m still planning on paying off the credit cards in 2015 before tackling the auto loan and then the HELOC in that order. The student loans and rental mortgage can wait.  In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I might refinance the rental mortgage to take advantage of a lower rate since they like to charge you out the nose for investment property.  Last on the list are my student loans.  I figure the Federal government would pry the money from my cold, dead hands anyway, so they can wait a bit longer.

Lots to do this year. Let’s get started.

never give up - Debt Check

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4 thoughts on “2014 Year In Review and January 1 Debt Check

  • That’s awesome that you were able to pay off $28,000 of debt in just one year, I actually ended up just short of that amount! I’m hoping that I can finally turn the corner in 2015 and make it my “year of change” like you had said though.

    Glad to hear that your side hustles worked out so well in 2014, and hope that you can continue that momentum in 2014. Congrats on six years of blogging too, that’s a huge achievement to be dedicated to writing for so long.

  • I’m having a hard time understanding how you’re getting out of debt when you have a rental, car note and talking about getting credit card points. Why don’t you sell the car and rental to make life cleaner, more simple. What happened from October to December that you didn’t really make any traction?

    • Hi! Lots of good questions. I won’t get rid of the car because I had to buy one when mine was totaled. My fiance drops me off at work on his way to work. So we share one very reliable car. Once rental is paid in full completely. The other rental pays for itself. It’s a long term income strategy so that stays. I actually slowed the repayment down for the last few months to sit on some cash. If you check out January 1, I dropped a chunk of change in December on the debt. It didn’t appear overnight. This was when I finally decided how much I would be spending on my wedding (paying that one in cash) and dropped the balance of the funds that I wouldn’t spend on the wedding back onto the debt.

      The point for me is not only to get out of debt but to build replacement income as well. It’s a crazy world and not something your debt guru might advise, but I say that what works for me might not work for someone else. Thanks!

  • Great job on paying down a significant amount of debt last year. I have been tuning into your Scopes and have become motivated again to tackle my debt. I have had some many life changes in the past 2 years that set me off track a bit. Keep inspiring!

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